The House in the Light
"An Australian woman returns alone to the Greek village house where she was once welcomed as a bride. Unsure of her reception after a divorce and an absence of many years, she has come to mourn the old man's death and to take part in the age-old traditions of Easter weekend. Bell is still bound, by her son and by the past, to this family and its matriarch Kyria Sofia. The old warmth between the two women is quick to surface, but so too are old grievances and misunderstandings. Brimming with dreams and memories, the house reasserts its claim on Bell. As the family gathers for the Resurrection, she is fighting for her soul.
"Readers of Milk and Home Time will welcome the return of Bell to the fold of rural Greece with all its riches and austerities of culture and tradition."
The grey green turbulence of leaves is the first new thing Bell will see when the bus goes lumbering over the bridge, the stony river. Even before the roofs crammed with television aerials and glass frames for solar heating, the enamelled cars crammed in under the vine-arbours, she will take in a new thick looseness and flicker of olive leaves in front yards all over the village, slender and flimsy, sparse in the wind, like gum leaves. This, when everyone laughed when she first came here. Kalé, nýfi, the old man said who is dead now, who died last year: you come this far inland and you expect to find olive trees? How would they live through a winter here in the north? And once she had a winter here she understood why: the ringing frost, and the village snowbound; the stream frozen solid, and the trees, iron boughs hung with glass.
Two hours and nothing to see out the window in the smoky damp but a slick of wet, a white blur of plums and cherries in flower. Now and then the bus sways through a village of shops with blank windows framed in blue, houses, the hump of a dim church. Greek churches have domes, for the most part, never spires, blue domes of heaven, in the islands, or of green slate; but here most of them are brick, like ovens, like bells, and have cupolas with a braiding of brick around their owl eyes. Another town, another village, a graveyard of blue cots and cypresses, coils of black flame. Valley after valley full of mist and sodden land and houses not like island houses, white though they are, foursquare and squat under red roofs. Not here the flow of land and sea, dome and arm of wall, niches, arches, of whitewash and grey stone in the sun. It is ánoixi, spring, meaning opening: of buds, of wombs, and this is all around; and of the sky, the weather, but of that there is little sign. The further north she goes,the more it looks as if the snow has barely melted; the land still has that tamped, discoloured and draggled llok, like a mended leg when the plaster is taken off.
From the UQP paperback edition, 1995.
About the Author:
Beverley Farmer was born in Melbourne in 1941. A graduate of Melbourne University, she married a Greek migrant in 1965 and for some years lived in the village with his family. During this time she wrote her first book, Alone (1980). The short story collections Milk (1983) and Home Time (1985) draw upon her experience of Greece. Her more recent works are A Body of Water (1990), part fiction, part writer's note-book, and the novel The Seal Woman (1992).
This novel was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award in 1996.
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Last modified: April 26, 2002.